Mario’s back for another round of board games in the latest Mario Party, but the plumber’s party-host mojo has seemingly one-upped and left. With many mini-games and game modes proving bland and uninspiring, Island Tour gets left in the shadows.
Together on Nintendo’s home consoles and handhelds, the Mario Party series has spawned into double figures, with the latest game holding party-goers in its thirteenth instalment. It seems rather fitting that Mario Party: Island tour languishes in the unlucky number hot seat, as there’s no real spirit and sparkle to its board games – even Bowser’s efforts to become the party-topper in his tower falls a little short – maybe the island life has left them all a little heavy-eyed on this occasion.
Firing up Mario Party in single-player and local multiplayer mode will give you a solid amount of options in both Party and Mini-Game modes. There are seven board games to choose in party mode, and for those who prefer to spend their time besting the AI players at mini-games, Perilous Palace Path and Star-Crossed Skyway provide sumptuous entertainment, while giving you a little room to engage with your devilish and playful side.
In Star-Crossed Skyway, the main aim is to collect the most mini stars in order to win, but you must either be the first player to reach the end of a skyway board to collect the most stars, or win mini-games against other players to do so. However, depending on which space you land on, mini stars can be deducted by picking up mini ztars, so if you want to catch the runaway winner, sneakily switching the order of stars at the end of the board may just change your fortune. Similarly in Perilous Palace Path, players can pick up the Crazy Kamek item to send the front player into your space – infuriating for the player in first place, but creates endless hilarity for those players at the back of the pack, especially when partnering up with other 3DS owners.
If Mario was ever in need of an enemy to gatecrash his party, Banzai Bill would be aiming for the top of the list – second only to Bowser. But if Banzai Bill’s Mad Mountain board game is anything to go by, Mario should have stomped him flat as soon as he reached the door. In the game, players are tasked to reach the goal while avoiding any Banzai Bill spaces or rolling his bullet-sneering image on the die. Not only does the game begin to get tiresome after the first ten minutes as a mini-game only pops up every three turns, it’s also maddeningly infuriating to see the goal only 15 short spaces away from your character, knowing that someone will set off Banzai Bill from his cozy casing on the next turn. Playing with friends gives you more control over the game, though after ten minutes, it’s probably best to work together in order to defeat Banzai Bill, rather than claim victory.
Playing the game without AI characters or friends gives you the opportunity to explore Bowser’s Tower. Bowser’s livid he wasn’t invited to Mario’s bash, so he’s created his own party pad with 30 floors full to the brim with mini-games. Of course, Bowser throws in a few tricks to liven up the soiree by making your adversaries more challenging or deducting party points from your total.
On each floor you’ll have a choice between two mini-games, with a mid-boss challenge every five levels. Mini-games based on luck such as Spin and Bear It, and Egg Drop, can be irritating when you lose, forcing you to start the floor over, but if you’re adept at skill-based mini-games such as the rhythm-tapping Strike a Chord, or timing your button pushes and jumps in Abseiling Antics and Great Bars of Fire, you’ll breeze through the tower with considerable ease. Though boss fights are the most challenging mini-games, there’s no such need to revisit Bowser’s Tower – save for gaining a handful of party points and unlocking collectibles – as you can replay them all in Free Play mode.
As always, the Mario Party series needs to be enjoyed with friends to get the most thrills out of the game. However, Nintendo’s choice to bar online play in Island Tour has hindered the game’s longevity, critically. Although the mini-games and board games – for the most part – are enjoyable, the lack of a challenging single-player mode with Bowser’s Tower relegates Island Tour to the sidelines, and with no online play Mario doesn’t even need to show us the door.